Travel likely to be frustrating for those looking to spend the holidays with family and friends

Travel likely to be frustrating for those looking to spend the holidays with family and friends

Crystal Graham
thanksgiving travel
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While travelers are feeling more comfortable about resuming holiday travel and celebration, they will continue to face delays, cancellations, and other frustrations, says a Virginia Tech expert.

The reality is that the hospitality industry is still recovering from the impact of COVID, says travel and tourism professor Mahmood Khan.

“The backbone of the travel industry is affected due to the blockage of the supply chain; acute labor shortages; and coming out of the lockdown psychology,” says Khan. “The problems facing the travel industry are evident by last minute flight cancellations, lost baggage, delays and unruly customer stories.”

Khan says that expecting travel to be as normal as during pre-pandemic will bring more disappointment. Airline prices have gone up considerably, which requires advance planning, particularly for holiday travel.

“Even when travelers are mentally prepared to pay a little more for getting out of the isolation, the sticker-shock can be stressful. The Thanksgiving break will be a pre-test of things to come, and Christmas travel may prove to be a nightmare,” says Khan.

Travel challenges aside, Khan says that safety should be the priority and taking precautions are a must.

“Considering all the negative aspects, the best part will be to enjoy the holidays with family and friends in spite of certain inconveniences.”

Holiday travelers staying in hotels is up

The share of holiday travelers who plan to stay in hotels is up this year, and hotels are the top lodging choice among those certain to travel for leisure in the next three months, according to a survey commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

  • 31 percent of Thanksgiving travelers plan to stay in a hotel during their trip, compared to 22 percent who planned to do so last year.
  • 28 percent of Christmas travelers plan to stay in a hotel during their trip, compared to 23 percent who planned to do so last year.
  • Among those absolutely certain to travel for leisure in the next three months, 54 percent plan to stay in a hotel.
  • Overall holiday travel levels will likely remain flat, however, with 28 percent of Americans reporting they are likely to travel for Thanksgiving and 31 percent likely to travel for Christmas this year – compared to 29 percent and 33 percent, respectively, in 2021.

The survey also found that concerns about COVID-19 are fading among travelers but are being replaced by economic challenges like inflation and high gas prices.

“This survey bolsters our optimism for hotels’ near-term outlook for a number of reasons,“ said AHLA President & CEO Chip Rogers. “The share of holiday travelers planning hotel stays is rising, plans for business travel are on the upswing, and hotels are the number one lodging choice for those certain to travel for leisure in the near future. This is great news for our industry as well as current and prospective hotel employees, who are enjoying more and better career opportunities than ever before.”

VDOT lifts most lane closures in Virginia

The Virginia Department of Transportation will ease travel on the roadways by suspending many highway work zones and lifting most lane closures on interstates and other major roads in Virginia from noon on Wednesday, Nov. 23 until noon on Monday, Nov. 28.

However, drivers may encounter semi-permanent work zones during this time.

According to VDOT, based on historical travel data, periods of heavy congestion are most likely to occur from mid-morning to evening on Wednesday, Nov. 23, afternoon on Saturday, Nov. 26, and all day on Sunday, Nov. 27. Additionally, routes to and from Northern Virginia are likely to be heavily congested mid-morning to late evening on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

VDOT: Tips for staying safe on the road

It’s everyone’s responsibility to drive responsibly.

Do your part to make travel safer for all:

  • If you plan to drink, have a designated driver
  • Buckle up and ensure children and car seats are secured
  • In the event of any winter weather threat, travelers should pay close attention to forecasts, official announcements and advisories, and should adjust travel based on conditions
  • Use signals for lane changes and turns
  • Take a break if you are drowsy
  • Keep an emergency preparedness kit in case of a breakdown in the cold
  • Don’t drive distracted, and speak up if someone else is doing so

Weather may impact Thanksgiving travel

Stormy weather could cause chaos for last-minute travelers in one part of the nation, according to the AccuWeather Global Weather Center.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving has been identified as the busiest travel day around the late-November holiday, but there has been a noticeable shift in recent years.

The biggest trouble spot in terms of weather on Wednesday, Nov. 23 will be the western U.S., according to AccuWeather’s team of long-range forecasters, and will include cities such as Seattle, Salt Lake City and Denver.

“We are expecting big travel disruptions from wet, windy and snowy weather in the Northwest and Northern California,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok. “This intense weather will extend east into the northern Rockies.”

Mountain passes could be closed due to heavy snow, including Donner Pass in California. This will force travelers on Interstate 80 to change their routes in order to reach their destinations before Thanksgiving dinner.

Better travel weather is forecast for Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Farther east, chilly but dry weather is in the forecast for most of Wednesday, including in New York City, Chicago and Atlanta.

However, not all of the eastern U.S. will have tranquil weather conditions.

A cold front that is expected to clash with warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico will spark rain and thunderstorms over part of the southern Plains and Mississippi Valley. While this rain is much needed for the parched Mississippi River, it could lead to delays for motorists as well as air travelers.

Flight delays and cancellations due to the weather could have an accordion effect across the country, potentially disrupting flights to or from cities where conditions are dry and calm.

Thanksgiving Day/NFL Football/Black Friday weather outlook

Those heading to Turkey trots, parades, football games as well as last-minute travelers could all face poor weather on Thanksgiving Day as multiple storm systems spread rain and snow across big swaths of the U.S.

Widespread rain and snow are forecast for the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies and Northern and Central California.

The weather will not be a factor for the NFL games being played Thursday since all three games will take place in stadiums that have a roof, although pre-game tailgaters in Detroit and Dallas may have to endure periods of unsettled weather that could dampen festivities.

Stormy weather could linger over much of the eastern U.S. into Black Friday, which can dampen the holiday spirits of bargain-hunting shoppers as well as people traveling immediately following Thanksgiving.

Elsewhere, dry conditions are likely across most of the central and western U.S., although another storm could approach the Pacific Northwest with another round of rain and mountain snow, meteorologists say.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.